Transport unmanned aerial vehicles

3 October 2013

Cargo UAV- helicopter

This UAV was produced in 2011 on the basis of Kama K-1200 (Kaman Aerospace and Lockheed Martin). It was first used as part of military missions in Afghanistan, supplying the U.S. marines. This UAV can carry up to 2.7 tons of cargo on distances of up to 500 km.

ARES Project

In 2015, the government of the United States is planning to start trials of a new UAV designed for transport missions. (ARES Project by Lockheed Martin).

Google and UAVs

Google has announced about its independent development of an aircraft that can be used to deliver cargo. Google experts hope that such UAVs can be employed in relief missions in the aftermath of natural disasters. 

A veteran drone

In 2013, Russian authorities announced a competition for the best concept of a cargo UAV aircraft that can carry up to 50 tons for scheduled flights. There was one obstacle on the way. The international cargo aviation industry has been developing for a century. A huge infrastructure was created as a result of this process: cargo terminals, logistics for these shipments, particular standards for aircraft containers and pallets. There is no doubt that the unmanned transport airplanes with integrated state-of-art technologies is the future of the industry. But we cannot forget about a tremendous park of transport airplanes that could be converted into UAVs with the same set of technologies. Today, more than 1,000 Antonov airplanes are used around the world (Other perspective models include AN-12: 290 (in 2014); AN-26: 815; AN-28: 61 and others). Most of these airplanes are in use for more than a decade, however, the conversation of these into UAVs can prolong their resources and would enable to create a competitive unmanned transport aircraft fleet in the shortest terms.

AN-12 UAV: a simple and reliable solution 

Step by step

Currently AN-12 in the US Air Force is used for filming of Hollywood movies. However, AN-12 converted into a UAV might become an attractive opportunity for investment.

*Approximate price of one such UAV in case of serial production is: With Clause 1: 0,5-0,7m USD; Clause 2: 3m USD x 4 = 12m USD (new, 2014 price) OR 1,2m USD overhaul x 4 = 4,8m USD; Clause 3: 1,2m USD. Total: from 6,5m to 13,9m USD + the price of АN-12.

The price of engineering works to realise this project and prepare the serial production can range between 15m and 50m USD, depending from the configuration of production: a moving model that can transfer UAVs in service centres and / or conducts production on the manufacturing plant.

The main aspect of this program is the creation of land infrastructure to control these UAVs, including special systems in airports and those that use cellular coverage.  The indicated equipment can be both mobile and static. The important detail will be the choice among international standards of control for UAVs.

In contrast to the post-Soviet countries where the production of AN-12 was stopped in 1973, Chinese counterpart of the plane named Shaanxi Y-8 or Yushinji-8 (Chinese: 运-8)  is produced since 1981 (more than 120 airplanes were manufactured so far). Moreover, Chinese industries modified the original model and created Shaanxi Y-9 with a higher payload of 25 tons. Thus AN-12 became one of the most effective transport airplanes in the world. This happened thanks to the combination of unsealed transport cabin and a sealed cockpit divided by a special barrier

Another feature was an optimal unity of speech - height of flight - payload and size of the transport cabin. 3 issues have to addressed in order to convert AN-12 into a UAV*:

 (1) Replace the airplane’s control system on Fly-by-Wire or Fly-by-Optics;

(2) Replace AI-20 engines with Pratt & Whitney PW-150 series (Canada) engines with FADEC - Full Authority Digital Engine Control systems (in use since 2000);

(3) Installation of a UAV control system (satellite channel + non-satellite channel of control + GPS automatic control system that can direct the aircraft to reach a particular point) 🔳 2013



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© Pavel Naumenko / Library and Information Science Resources 2014